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. she was a well liked valedictorian at poplar high. and one summer night down by the river -- >> i could hear all these girls chasing her. a horrible scream. >> some in town claimed it was a murder by a gang of mean girls. those he's the one convicted, septemb sent to prison. >> i did not kill her, you have my promise. >> sentenced to 100 years. >> guilty as charged. >> but cdid he really commit ths crime. that drove us to investigate. >> witnesses had a courage to come forward.
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>> and a dramatic new development. a whole new ending. >> it was the last thing we ever anticipated happening. >> i'm lester holt and this is dateline. shear keith morrison with return to poplar river. >> there is a common misconception that momentous events occur in great cities, that justice is handed down true and pure from marble palaces. what would lady justice say about the story you'll see now, about a nobody in a nowhere town. a story that is -- well,what would they say? >> this is crazy, how can you do this. >> i couldn't believe it. >> this was definitely a shock. >> yes, it's all of those things. unbelievable. crazy. and a summer's night more than 30 years ago.
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the town is poplar montana, june 15th, 1979. summer was here, school was out. kim, 17, school valedictorian, national honor society sgraut, finally about to escape the up to for college. around about midnight, kim left her house to join the end of school party. the next morning whenlg police found the family pickup at a well-known party spot. they followed a trail of blood from the truck down a resulted dirt track 250 feet or so to the poplar river. and there they found the battered body. >> term i'd use is overkill. >> dean was the undersheriff and later the county sheriff in charge of the murder investigation. >> there were 20 or 21 blows to kim's skull which any of them could have caused her death.
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any of them could have caused her death. >> there was rage involved? >> there was a high level of rage. someone very angry. >> at the crime scene there was no shortage of evidence. blood everywhere, inside the cab of the pickup truck. fingerprints, more than two dozen, footprints. and on the truck, near the passenger door, a palm print in blood. the fbi looked at the print, said it would have to have been left by the killer. >> we worked very, very, very, very hard at determining whose that was. >> why kim nees? it wasn't a robbery or a sexual assault. people do talk. around town the story was this was, call it a jealousy killing. kim was popular. she was attractive. she was class valedictorian. the boys loved her. and she was about to leave poplar behind for good. so the story was that this was local kids, mostly girls, who beat her to death.
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so went the rumor. >> that was one of the -- again, if you will, the theories that folks around town had, is that there may have been three or four of kim's peers that were involved with her death. >> bobby clencher heard the talk. she lived down the block from the nees family. >> what did you hear? >> her grandfather told me all indications are it was the girls. >> though poplar's teens boys and girls wound up on a list of potential suspects, including bobbie's son barry, who once dated kim's sister. >> did you question him harshly about it? >> uh-huh. he said repeatedly he didn't know anything about it. the only thing he knew was what he had heard and been told. >> that's what all the kids told the police, too. and nothing happened. nobody was arrested. three years went by. in january 1993, sheriff picked up the phone and found himself talking to a detective way down south.
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>> he asked if i was aware of an individual by the name of barry beach, wanted to know if mr. beach was or had ever been a suspect. >> barry was almost 21 by then me had gone to louisiana to be with his father and stepmother. it wasn't going well. in fact, his stepmother had him arrested for helping his stepsisters skip school. and then told arriving police officers that barry was once questioned about the murder of kim nees in montana. well, it just show happened investigators in louisiana were scratching their heads over the murders of three women in their own county, so could beach be their killer? >> my feeling from talking to the sheriff was the fact that, you know, he was a viable suspect. >> so jay vy, the detective who called the montana sheriff interrogated beach about the louisiana murders. >> what made you think that he was the kind of guy who would be your prime suspect?
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>> the fact that he was a suspect in a murder already. >> so the detective put barry in a little room at the sheriff's office and grilled him, for two days. barry denied everything, of course. but after many hours of questioning, barry's answers about kim nees changed, according to jay vy anyway. >> you know, we had asked him, you know, were you responsible? and during this part of the interview he kept saying, i don't remember if i was or not. >> soon the detective was joined in his work by commander alfred calhoun, known as something of a closer, vy stepped out of the room while the commander worked on barry. >> alfred stepped out of the interview room and said he wants to talk to you. so when i walked in the room barry was crying and he admitted to killing kimberly nees. >> the mystery was solved. all the rumors about other suspects including that group of girls, long whispered of in connection with the crime, were
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apparently wrong. vy allowed barry to call his mother back in montana. >> and i said, barry, why did you confess to something you didn't do? and he said, well, they're going to come back to montana and they're going to help me prove that i didn't do this. >> but in montana, helping barry beach was not on the menu. first degree murder was. barry pleaded not guilty, but when his trial began at the courthouse in glasgow, montana, the prosecutor came on very strong. >> i had a detailed confession that only the killer could have given. >> within a decade mark rosco would be elected montana's governor. in 1984, though, he prosecuted barry beach. >> he gave a very detailed confession that matched the things that were discovered at the crime scene. >> like what? well, beach described the shirt kim wore, the tire iron and crescent wrench used to kill
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her, how she was dragged out of the driver's side of the pickup, on and on. when testimony was finished, the jury was back in just six hours. the verdict, guilty. and so, in the spring of 1984, the story of the life of barry beach was apparently over, a dead man walking. sentenced to 100 years, no parole, but of course, who are we fooling. the amazing story had really just begun. >> why would barry beach confess to a crime he says he didn't commit? if he's innocent, as he claims, can he somehow prove it? when we come back, a closer look at the evidence. where it points and where it doesn't. >> it's not barry beach's palm print. would you rather have spoons for hands or elbows for ears?
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i'd rather have food. [gasp] let's make a late night foody call and get - my munchie meal with the new hella - peño burger. it's loaded with sliced and stuffed jalapeños, melting cheese, and spicy taco sauce. i'll eat it with my... sppoooooonnnnn haaaaaands! what? i can't hear you... talk into my elbow!
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life in prison can suck out the man, make him mean, bitter,
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a hopeless case. so we were in for something of a survive when we first met barry beach in 2007. by then he was 45, had spent more than half his life in the montana state prison, destined to die here. but he didn't act like it. >> you're not going to get out of here, are you? >> went they gave me 100 years, that means they gave me 100 years to prove that i didn't commit the crime that put me behind bars. >> didn't commit the crime? after all, he confessed. what more was there to say? well, actually, quite a bit. >> you weren't exactly a choir boy, were you? >> no, sir. i drove fast cars. i liked rock 'n roll. >> and you liked to party. >> every chance i got, to be honest with you. >> and what really happened, he said, on the day of the murder in june 1978 was this, he was drinking and smoking dope and swimming in the poplar river outside town. by the time he walked a mile back home, he said -- z >> i actually just went straight to my bedroom and went to sleep.
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>> what time was in? >> somewhere between 5:00 and 6:00 in the evening. >> when kim nees was murdered, he said he was fast asleep. but even though his sister swore that he was telling the truth, there was that confession. >> you said you killed that girl up at montana. >> yes, sir, i said that i killed kim nees. >> and that's when the story enters the twilight zone. barry beach says he believes he was about to be released from the prison, minor charge called in by his stepmother about to be proved instead he found himself in an interrogation room answering questions about murder. those detectives seem to think he had committed those three unsolved louisiana murders, the murders they were try so very hard to solve. >> the next thing i know they started showing me pictures of dead bodies and told me do you remember doing this?
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i was telling them i didn't do it, i didn't kill anyone. >> but as the day wore on and his anxiety, fatigue, and confusion grew, the door opened. and in walked commander alfred calhoun. >> he promised me that he would personally see me fry in the louisiana electric chair. >> what were you feeling in the middle of all of this? >> i was scared to death, keith, but i knew that he would execute me if given the chance. >> and, said barry, the talk turned to that murder in montana, the murder of kim nees. >> well, it started off that they asked me to speculate how it happened. and then i was asked to give a hypothetical story using myself as perpetrator. >> and then he said he heard those detectives tell him if he just went ahead and gave them a confession, they would help him prove his innocence later when they got back to montana. >> i don't deny that the confession took place. i don't remember all the details.
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>> but, barry, come on. i really don't think i'm going to tell a police officer i killed a girl if i didn't kill her. why would you do it? >> i was a 20-year-old kid. 2300 miles away from my real home. they scared me so bad i would have said anything to get away from them. anything to make it stop. >> barry couldn't get anybody in authority to believe him. would anyone ever listen? apparently not. until one of those letters reached him. >> we get 1100, 1200 letters a year from people asking for our help. >> this is the reverend jim, founder of a group called centurion ministries, running with a small staff of six people
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has compiled quite a record. over 33 years, his group has freed from prison for death row 51 men or women wrongly convicted. >> do you have to be convinced beyond any doubt that somebody is actually innocent? >> yes, we do. we don't take a case on unless we are convinced of the person's innocence. >> so before centurion would commit to barry's case investigators had to check out that confession. >> there's a signed confession. you ask anybody around the country, of course you did it. >> there have been over 00 men exonerated by dna from sexual assaults or murder, convicted, imprisoned, who have later been freed or exonerated. 25% of those men have falsely confessed to that crime when arrested under interrogation. >> narrator: but centurion found in the case of barry beach the chance for dna testing had been lost because all the testable evidence from the case had somehow disappeared from montana's crime lab. the fingerprints were still in
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the record, though, and this was curious, not a single one of them matched barry, neither did any of the multiple set of footprints left behind as kim's body was dragged from the pickup to the river. and what physical evidence there was did not match barry's confession. what did he get wrong? well, for one thing barry told interrogators kim tried to get away from him from scrambling out the driver's side of the truck but evidence showed it was the passenger's side door where that still unidentified bloody palm print was found. >> it's not barry beach's palm print. it's not kim nees' palm print. after she was attacked inside the vehicle her killers pulled her out, deposited her on the ground, and one of them closed the door. >> narrator: there was more. in the confession beach told the police his fingerprints weren't found on the truck because he
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wiped them off. centurion wanted to know how beach wiped off his prints but leave over two dozen others inside the truck undisturbed. quite a few such oddities. didn't match the confession, didn't quite add up. >> but once barry gave his confession, then it became immaterial and irrelevant to the truth of the matter. >> how could that happen? well, centurion managed to get ahold of former department employee who told him that she fielded about a dozen calls between the sheriff and the louisiana detective during barry beach's interrogation. does that mean his confession was coached or even dictated somehow? evidence? well, some of those calls had turned out were transcribed and at one point the sheriff tells the detective that she was wearing a plaid shirt, kim was, when she was murdered. sure enough, in barry's confession, he says she was wearing a plaid shirt.
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trouble was, she wasn't wearing a plaid shirt. that was wrong. >> narrator: the detectives denied any wrong doing. they said all barry's statements were voluntary and they didn't put any words in his mouth. >> you never got any information from dean that you were able to pass on to barry in the course of the conversation you had with him where he confessed? >> no. >> not one bit of that -- >> absolutely not. that is totally false statement and allegation. >> narrator: but the little digging they uncovered what was disturbing information about the louisiana detectives. remember those three louisiana murders the detectives questioned beach about? well, months later the same detectives filed charges against two men from whom they extracted, yes, confessions. their charges were later dropped. those confessions revealed to be false. centurion attorney peter camille. >> so you've got detectives with
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a track record of claiming they've got detailed confessions with people with information that only the killer could know and those are false confessions and it speaks volumes about what they claim to be the validity of barry's confession. >> narrator: but if barry beach did not kill kim nees, then who did? that's what makes this case a little different, because centurion's team not only believes that beach is innocent, but it knows who is guilty. coming up, troubling recollections. >> she was talking about how the wrong person got put in jail. >> what a strange thing to hear. >> it gave me the creeps. she said, we got away with the perfect crime. >> when "dateline" continues. i love watching tv outside.
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by 2007, barry beach had spent more than half his life at montana state prison or similar for ten years centurion investigators dug for anything, anything at all that would indicate barry did or did not kill kim nees back in the summer of '79 and they were more convinced than ever he was an innocent man. >> we have not developed any information that would tell us, hey, maybe barry's guilty, because if we did, i can assure
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you that centurion ministries would have dropped this case years ago and moved on to more fertile fields. >> but it was the secrets in this old town that persuaded centurion was able to say not only barry beach was innocent but it knew or thought it knew who might be the real killers. for 25 years the rumors had persisted to a group of girls killed kim nees. and now centurions investigators encountered more than just rumors. centurion turned up witnesses which claimed one of the girls, now a middle aged woman, had implicated herself in the murder. this is that woman, her name sissy atkinson. >> she was talking about the kim nees murder and how the wrong person got put in jail. >> narrator: this man said he heard sissy making incriminating
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statements in a factory where they both worked. >> she looked at me, and she said, we got away with the perfect crime. >> narrator: nor was he the only one who heard sissy putting herself at the murder. one of the other was about the last person you would think would ever come forward. >> i think kim nees is looking over sissy's shoulder all the time. >> reporter: this man's name is j.d. his last name, atkinson. yes, sissy atkinson's brother. he was in prison on drug-related charges when we talked to him. he had heard the rumors, of course. one night he said he was talking to sissy when she was a little high. >> did your sister sissy told you that she was there the night that kim nees was killed? >> she said that they were partying down there. >> and there were other girls there, too? >> yeah. >> how much did she get out before she dropped off?
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>> well, just that -- one of them girls come running around the pickup with a crescent wrench. >> narrator: j.d. said his sister passed out before she could say anymore. >> one of the things that we keep hearing from the state is these girls, if they were involved, wouldn't have kept quiet. somebody would have heard something over the years. and these people who have come forward did hear something. >> narrator: sissy was 51 when we met her in 2007. and admitted drug addict, she was perhaps understandably not entirely happy to still be facing questions about a murder more than three decades old. >> i told those ministry guys, i said, when we all die and go to heaven and you guys find out that i had no knowledge of it, i hope you guys will be gentleman enough to come and find me in heaven and tell me you're sorry. >> narrator: in fact, sissy's story about what she did that night has changed over the years. but here's what she told us in 2007.
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she was at a local bar and, in fact, the bartender confirms sissy and some other girls were there. closed the place. way passed midnight, said the bartender. but sissy said it was much earlier when she asked a friend for a ride home. >> she drove me to my home and i went in and i went to bed. >> so you were in bed by when that night, do you remember? >> oh 11:00. >> why would we have witnesses who say that you said a few years after the murder that you got away with a perfect crime? >> no, that never ever came out of my mouth. never. >> is it possible that it's blocked somehow? >> i've got a very, very good memory. >> i don't want to be cruel when i say this but if you do have a really good memory, you're probably the only addict on the face of the earth that does. what is it going to take to stop the whispers? >> i don't know. i don't care because i'm not involved. >> narrator: and, in fact, that bloody palm print at the crime scene, not hers. no fingerprints, either. >> if i was down there i'm sure they would have found some kind of dna on me.
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you know, something. >> narrator: after our interview with sissy we went looking for more of those girls, now women, whom witnesses placed at the scene. one of them is joanne jackson, also at the bar that night but, like sissy, she said she was tucked into bed hours before the murder. >> i don't know of any reason to be implicated in this whatsoever. you know, i had -- i went home. i talked to my mother. >> do you know what time of night that was? >> around 11:00. >> and after that you have no idea what happened? >> no. >> narrator: but the things that can happen when such old stories long buried in secrecy go public again. hard to believe. coming up, "dateline" helps uncover something new. >> when the whole story was told in a "dateline" piece, these witnesses finally decided i know something that might be able to help out. [ laughter ]
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by 2009 every effort to free barry beach from the state prison in deer lodge, montana, and there were many, had failed. do you really think you're going get out of here? >> yes, sir. >> narrator: but the fight, the years, the stress, had all taken
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a toll on barry's mom. after bobbie testified at a failed clemency hearing her health gave out. >> it was simply a stress-related heart attack. >> your body forcing you to fall apart? >> right. but i thought, well, god promised us. >> narrator: there was something rather sad about her unshakeable certainty in the face of the long parade of unkept promises. and the defense team at centurion seemed hardly more realistic than bobbie. didn't this seem like tilting at windmills at that point? >> hope springs eternal. >> narrator: they threw a legal hail mary, a motion that somehow found its way to montana's supreme court. it asked for a new judge to hear a whole new appeal of beach's conviction. >> just give us a fair judge. that's all we're asking for. >> narrator: so they asked, and then they waited. and the request was approved. the montana supreme court asked
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a judge with a reputation for toughness to rehear the new evidence. in august 2011 barry walked into the courtroom to a chorus of applause. by then, "dateline"'s report on the murder of kim nees had long sense aired and hoards of reporters were waiting for him in the courtroom along with judge e. wayne philips. >> good morning, everyone. >> narrator: and another thing our "dateline" report had done, turn up new witnesses. >> for the whole story was told and the "dateline" piece these witnesses had finally decided, you know, i know something that might be able to help out. >> narrator: that long running rumor the real killers of kim nees were girls from her own high school class, the judge would hear much more about this, about, for example, the alleged admissions of guilt by sissy atkinson. >> that i had no knowledge of it. i was not there. >> narrator: this man testified
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that sissy herself told him the story several times. told him about the group of jealous girls, how they hit kim with a tire iron, rolled her body into a river. >> i know for a fact girls murdered kim nees and i know he's not a girl. >> narrator: and then there were two witnesses who came forward to say they heard the same story from joanne jackson. >> she told us that she and a group of girls took another girl by water. she said they dragged her, beat her, and things got out of hand and she died. >> why would they do this? and she says, she was smart and she was going away to college. >> narrator: but if there was a star witness among the many who appeared, it was steffi eagleboy, just 10 years old that summer night in june 1979, when she sat on a bluff overlooking the poplar river. and heard the sound that has ever since been her recurring nightmare.
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>> i could hear all of these girls hollering and saying, get her and this other girl was saying, don't, please. >> narrator: judge philips questioned the witness himself. >> did you hear screaming? >> yes. >> what kind of screaming? >> like the -- a horrible scream. a high-pitched, angry scream. hollering. it's something that you won't forget. >> narrator: steffi eagleboy said she never came forward because of the other things she saw from her perch on the bluff that night. soon after the girl stopped screaming, she said a police car cruised up to the place where it happened and lingered briefly and left. the police must have known and done nothing, she decided, and so she said, not a word until she heard barry's story. after all the witnesses testified it was the state's
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turn and the state contended that all of them had waited too long to come forward and none was very credible, that barry's confession was much more compelling. >> the confession has always been upheld. >> narrator: so the state saw it one way, centurion, another. >> we were cautiously optimistic. now, barry was even more confident than we were. he said, he said, guys, this judge is going to reverse the conviction. he said, i just got a good feeling about this judge. >> narrator: oh, but good feelings and desired results, they're not always agree. after all, montana attorney general believed, as did sheriff, that none of the evidence exonerated barry or pointed to multiple attackers. >> due to the lack of other injuries, we were dealing with one perpetrator as opposed to a large group of people. >> narrator: besides, he said, barry's confession and conviction settled the matter.
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>> if the conviction is expunged, that's a travesty because barry beach killed kim nees. >> if they vacate the judgment, it says that your belief and the voracity of that confession was false. >> no, what it says is that someone else killed kimberly nees and no one else killed kimberly nees. >> your confidence is overwhelming. >> good. >> narrator: this was the moment for that old cliche, the jury was out. >> all rise. >> narrator: except in this case it was a jury of one. the judge e. wayne philips, all up to him now. coming up, the judge speaks. >> it was that linchpin that convinced me. >> a rare interview about this remarkable case when "dateline" continues.
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your children's health can affect their gpa. yes, exercise and education go hand in hand. so make sure your kids are active 60 minutes every day. you'll help them feel good and even perform better in school. the more you know. when barry beach left this montana courtroom in the summer of 2011 the judge promised a ruling soon, which meant that barry beach went back to his prison sale and ticked off the days and weeks and months into the fall. >> you can't get your hopes up too much, can you? i mean, you've been whacked so often. >> it is hard to keep your -- keep your belief up sometimes, but he had been faithful.
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>> and then november 2011 the decision, a 30-page ruling. it was just hours before the thanksgiving holiday. judge e. wayne philips ruled that there was clear and convincing evidence the jury could find barry beach an innocent man. almost 30 years beach had been hearing the word no, and now, finally, this time it was yes. >> narrator: not freedom, not yet. but at least this, a chance to clear his name for good. judge philips granted a new trial. >> i had just sat down to watch the news. i just started praising god. i was just -- it was so emotional for me. >> it doesn't get any sweeter than this, especially because of all the bitterness that barry had experienced with this case. but finally, here was a man, a judicial authority who heard the evidence and agreed that if a
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future jury hears this evidence that they would find mr. beach innocent. >> narrator: here was something very unusual. after granting barry beach a new trial, judge e. wayne phillips agreed to sit down with "dateline" and explain his decision. >> how could you rule as i did on the evidence i had and not also have to think about whether the guy should be just set free. >> narrator: the judge stopped source of declaring barry beach innocent. after all there was that old confession on file. but once he heard steffi eagleboy telling about hearing the murder happen -- >> it was that linchpin that convinced me that a jury properly instructed would have said, i've got doubt. i have reasonable doubt about this man's guilt. >> all rise. >> narrator: and then, the judge not only granted beach a new trial but at least until that trial, much, much more.
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>> it's this court's determination that it can release mr. beach on his own recognizance. >> as the state's attorney vowed to appeal barry beach was hustled out of the courthouse to a jail just down the street. the paperwork was done and minutes later for the first time in nearly three decades he was freed. >> oh, mom. >> narrator: and safely in the arms of the woman who, through it all, has always been with him. >> what was that like? >> unreal. absolutely unreal. citizens, didn't even know me, stopped, honking their horns. waving, congratulating me. it's been like that ever since. >> narrator: after his release barry lived in billings, montana, with restaurant owner stella and zig zigler. zig is a former county commissioner who met barry through prison ministries 27 years ago. >> as soon as he got out he got
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a cellphone, computer, zip, zip, zip. you know, he had really worked at some day i'm going to get out and i'll be ready. >> narrator: he started his own maintenance company and parlayed that into a job as head of maintenance at a billings hotel. barry's boss, steve worley. >> he was overseeing $300,000 or $400,000 remodeling projects. he had a staff of five people. plus he was part of a our senior management team. >> narrator: after eight months with the ziglers, barry received permission from the judge to live on his own and he fixed up this house, working to buy it to his mom could eventually move in. he traveled all over montana responding to requests to tell his story. >> i bet you he did at least 50 speeches. >> did he leave a message for people that resonated with them? >> hope. there's always hope. >> he has a connection with people. no matter whether it was a politician or a banker or a native, he connected with all of
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them very well. >> narrator: one of those politicians, billings mayor and ex-police officer tom hanle, became a friend. >> he was trying to do his best to fit in to the community, to be one of a respectful citizen. >> narrator: and after three decades behind bars barry beach lived life. he learned to ski, went horseback riding and fishing, enjoyed rodeos, made new friends. >> life is like ice cream, keith. there are 64 flavors of ice cream and you've got to try them all. >> narrator: all the while know that the state of montana was appealing the judge's ruling. and intended, if necessary, to put him on trial again for the murder. after all, confessed to it more than 30 years ago. it was a day in court barry said he was eager for, to help find the truth. >> justice for kim nees is not going to be served until the whole truth is discovered.
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and the preparation for a new trial gives me more of an opportunity to discover that truth. >> are you a little worried about it? >> no. my god didn't put me where i'm sitting right now to let me down. >> narrator: but, of course, no one can predict the future, no matter how we all may try. >> we always knew that this kind of sword was hanging over his head, could have happened any time. >> we talked about it on any occasion. i know it's down there. but deep down in our heart the probability won't come. >> narrator: but it comes, the future comes. like it or not. coming up, a ruling from the court and some will be stunned. >> it was the last thing we ever anticipated happening. ♪
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♪ ♪ ♪ i ♪ know i can't deny... ♪ that i got a new feeling ♪ deep inside... ♪ [ female announcer ] with five perfectly sweetened whole grains...
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you can't help but see the good.
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for barry beach, billings, montana, was far more than just home after his release from prison.
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it was some kind of heaven. by may 2013 he had called this town and this house home for more than a year and a half, waiting to find out if the state would drop the case or retry him or possibly even send him back to prison. and then on may 14th, the decision came down. the montana supreme court ruled against him, by a vote of four justices to three. they ruled that judge e. wayne philips gave too much credibility to all those new witnesses who came forward to tell their stories. and not enough credibility to barry's original confession all those years ago, which meant not that they were putting him on trial again, oh, no, it meant they were sending barry straight back to prison to resume his life sentence. now. montana's attorney general declined "dateline" request for an interview but issued a press release which read, in part, mr. beach's allegations lack substance when closely scrutinized.
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beach's conviction is valid. therefore, like every other person convicted of murder, beach is required to serve his prison sentence. >> i was stunned. >> narrator: centurion had been so confident that the court would rule in barry's favor, but this? >> all of us who are convinced of barry's innocence, we were just -- it was a kick in the stomach. >> narrator: the warrant was issued within hours. barry insisted on walking to the sheriff's office to turn himself in. the ziglers went with him. >> he stopped and put his hands on both shoulders, stella's and mine, and he said i hope you know this means i'm going to have to go back and serve the rest of my time. i said, barry, don't talk like that. i don't want to hear that. very, very, very emotional day for us. just like someone in our family. >> narrator: reaction was swift and shock and sad.
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from the waitresses at stella's. >> very heartbreaking because i've seen him work here and he's an active member of society. >> narrator: from barry's boss. >> barry belong in prison? nope, absolutely not. i would trust him with my hotel, i would trust him with my family, i would trust him with anything. >> narrator: and, of course, barry's mother bobbie who waited decades to get her son back. and now he was gone. >> i was stunned for days afterwards. just couldn't wrap my mind around it. >> narrator: that could be said, too, for barry. back in state prison blue. perhaps for the rest of his life. what's it like to be you these days? >> sickening. it was the last thing we ever anticipated happening because i went out there and i did everything right. >> you know, i talked to some people, they said, i would have run. i would have just taken off.
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>> that wasn't my mindset. my word means everything to me. i've looked you in the eyes before and i told you, i did not kill kim nees. that's my word. you have my promise. that same promise i gave the attorney general's office, my legal team and everybody else around me that i would turn myself in. and as hard as it was to keep my word, my word is my bond. >> narrator: meanwhile, an internet petition campaign has been collecting signatures, nearly 6,000 at last count, and centurion's attorneys are planning their next moves. >> the federal courts, i believe, will look at this very differently and reverse the conviction which ultimately will free barry. >> narrator: but for now and probably for years, barry's walking these familiar side walks, eating the same prison food, enduring the same smells,
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never ending routine that is life without parole, knowing that those closest to him, zig and stella, are getting up in years, as is his mom. >> will you see her again on the outside? >> if there's one thing that's got me concerned, very concerned, it's that. because i will be free again. i am going to walk free again. i just ask my mom to hang on. hang in there with me. >> narrator: his little house back in billings is exactly as he left it, as if he died in a car accident or simply vanished or, as if he thought he might come back some day. >> i did 29 years and 11 months. i don't want to do another day. but if you don't think i will, i will fight as long as i can breath.
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>> that's all for now. i'm lester holt. thanks for joining us. what a man did during the korean war and why it may have made him a target for the communist regime. and a deadly shooting in san francisco over a video game conso console. the latest on the homicide investigation and a warning for anyone selling anything online this holiday season. plus, hundreds of people turned out to mark the 25th a versery of world's aids day d and celebration major accomplish. s in the fight against the disease. >> good evening. thanks for joining us. i'm
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